Belle Kearney, "The South and Woman Suffrage," NAWSA Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 15-25, 1903

The address of Miss Belle Kearney, Mississippi's famous orator, was a leading feature of the last evening's program-The South and Woman Suffrage. It began with a comprehensive review of the part the South had had in the development of the nation from its earliest days. "During the seventy-one years reaching from Washington's administration to that of Lincoln," she said; "the United States was practically under the domination of southern thought and leadership." She showed the record southern leaders had made in the wars; she traced the progress of slavery, which began alike in the North and South but proved unnecessary in the former, and told of the enormous struggle for white supremacy which had been placed on the South by the enfranchisement of the negro. "The present suffrage laws in the southern States are only temporary measures for protection," she said. "The enfranchisement of women will have to be effected and an educational and property qualification for the ballot be made to apply without discrimination to both sexes and both races." The address closed as follows:

The enfranchisement of women would insure immediate and durable white supremacy, honestly attained, for upon unquestioned authority it is stated that in every southern State but one there are more educated women than all the illiterate voters, white and black, native and foreign, combined. As you probably know, of all the women in the South who can read and write, ten out of every eleven are white. When it comes to the proportion of property between the races, that of the white outweighs that of the black immeasurably. The South is slow to grasp the great fact that the enfranchisement of women would settle the race question in politics. The civilization of the North is threatened by the influx of foreigners with their imported customs; by the greed of monopolistic wealth and the unrest among the working classes; by the strength of the liquor traffic and encroachments upon religious belief. Some day the North will be compelled to look to the South for redemption from those evils on account of the purity of its Anglo-Saxon blood, the simplicity of its social and economic structure, the great advance in prohibitory law and the maintenance of the sanctity of its faith, which has been kept inviolate. Just as surely as the North will be forced to turn to the South for the nation's salvation, just so surely will the South be compelled to look to its Anglo-Saxon women as the medium through which to retain the supremacy of the white race over the African.

Miss Kearney's speech was enthusiastically received and at its end Mrs. Catt said she had been getting many letters from persons hesitating to join the association lest it should admit clubs of colored people. "We recognize States' rights," she said, "and Louisiana has the right to regulate the membership of its own association, but it has not the right to regulate that of Massachusetts or vice versa," and she continued: "We are all of us apt to be arrogant on the score of our Anglo-Saxon blood but we must remember that ages ago the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons were regarded as so low and embruted that the Romans refused to have them for slaves. The Anglo-Saxon is the dominant race today but things may change. The race that will be dominant through the ages will be the one that proves itself the most worthy. . . . Miss Kearney is right in saying that the race problem is the problem of the whole country and not that of the South alone. The responsibility for it is partly ours but if the North shipped slaves to the South and sold them, remember that the North has sent some money since then into the South to help undo part of the wrong that it did to you and to them. Let us try to get nearer together and to understand each other's ideas on the race question and solve it together."